The Catechism is an outstanding teaching tool that can provide excellent guidance for our lesson and session planning.
The crucial element in any planning is first to become clear about the aim and then about the intended outcomes of a lesson. This is the subject of the current article.
Focus on the Center
The overall goal of all catechetical activity—and therefore of every resource, every program, and each individual catechetical encounter—has been famously described in Catechesi Tradendae, St. John Paul II’s seminal teaching on catechesis:
the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ.[i]
This articulation that Christ is the central aim of catechesis is a rich and inclusive one, which points in several directions. As we ponder the meaning of this teaching, we can call to mind all the nuances of the term “Christ-centered,” as it is unfolded in the General Directory for Catechesis.[ii] Thus, in our catechetical work, we are helping others to find Christ; and finding Christ includes finding him in all of his relationships. When we find Christ, we find, at the same time, those whom he loves. He would not have it otherwise. He does not allow us to find him alone, isolated, as some barren sola Christi. His names and titles reveal as much: he is Jesus, “God saves”—a name pointing us simultaneously upwards towards the Persons of the Trinity and downwards to those whom he redeems and lifts from the misery of their sin; he is “Son,” a name that identifies a relationship, and reminds us of his heavenly Father, who is his source; he is also “Christ,” that is, the one anointed by the eternal Spirit.
To speak of the aim of our catechetical work as putting people “in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ” therefore entails, as St. John Paul II put it, leading others “to the love of the Father in the Spirit” in order to “make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.”[iii] A christocentric aim, furthermore, necessarily implies a Trinitarian christocentricity.[iv]
Christocentricity is also to be understood in terms of what the Tradition has called the “whole Christ,” Christus totus. The Church uses this phase to remind us that Christ is Head and members together, forming one Body. Jesus is not found apart from those whom he disciples; or, according to a parallel image, Christ is inseparable from his Bride, for whom he gave himself up and to whom he united himself in everlasting love. The Scriptures speak of the bride’s longing for her groom, which is a longing for that union that marks the end of earthly time, when Christ finally unites to himself, in the embrace of love, all whom the Father, throughout history, has drawn to himself through the Son in the Holy Spirit.[v] Christ is the living heart of the Father’s plan for creation and redemption.
The Catechism provides catechists with this rich christocentric account at the heart of its annunciation of the faith. Every part, and each chapter and section, has been written in order to lead us to this center, revealing “in the Person of Christ the whole of God's eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person.”[vi] When planning lessons, then, we can turn to the Catechism in confident trust that we will find there a Christ-centered presentation of material.